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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Between Crushed and Christ

Before the Coronavirus broke out in Wuhan China, a group of scientists predicted with startling accuracy in early 2019 that there would be a pandemic of the magnitude we’ve witnessed in 2020.

That’s quite a revelation and it reminds us that the human race tends to live with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of policy. The consequence has been that every nation almost on the face of the globe has been caught on the hop. Re-action not pro-action has been the story of our pandemic.

It would be easy for those scientists to gloat over the governments of the globe. They don’t seem to have done that and that is good. Gloating is not a virtue, but it’s sadly something we easily fall into.

Our text starts with some gloating. What we have in these verses is Micah speaking as if he was Jerusalem. Their enemy in Micah’s day was Assyria. Samaria the capital of Israel had already fallen to Sennacherib King of Assyria, just like all the other major capitals of the middle east had. Only Lacish and Jerusalem remained. Lacish would fall next and now Jerusalem’s fate hangs in the balance too. Assyria prances around; snooty and head held high. She’s proud and she gloats over her last great enemy Jerusalem.

Judah has done better than her sister Samaria, but not much better. Hezekiah was a good king, but he had to root out the high places in Judah and tear down the false alters. Judah has turned away from the Lord. The language of exile is on the prophet’s lips. Their days of liberty are numbered. Perhaps though the Lord will relent. Perhaps he will listen if they cry out to him.

This once-great-nation is on its knees torn apart by idolatry, defeated by its enemies. Intermarriage with heathen countries and Godless leaders have diluted the truth. The law of God has been forgotten and the hopes of Israel are dashed, it would seem. But Micah places these wonderful words in the mouth of Jerusalem that ring crystal clear for us in 2020.

The aim this morning is to learn how to walk when we have fallen. When we have sinned against the Lord. How to be crushed but not despairing on the one hand. And how to be confident but not glib about guilt on the other.

For Jerusalem, we must read ourselves - believers in the Lord. Hebrews 12:22-23 says, you’ve come to the heavenly Jerusalem…to the church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven’.

And for Assyria - Jerusalem’s enemy - we must read the enemy of our souls – Satan. He is a roaring lion; a devourer of faith; an accuser of sinners.

In Isaiah, the Lord says about Assyria, ‘because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put a hook in your nose’.

About the Devil, in Revelation 12 he says, ‘woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury’.

I think that’s a good connection to make and allows us to ground Micah’s words in our own lives.

So, you need to keep that in mind, as we look at these verses. How do they apply in our lives?

The most basic phrase in these verses is this: ‘I have fallen’.

Jerusalem was the Lord’s special possession. The Lord Jesus says of that city, ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing’. Jerusalem has fallen, Jerusalem has sinned against the Lord (v.9). And because of that it sits in darkness (v.8). The wrath of the Lord is on it (v.9). The state of the holy city of God, with its temple, where God resides, is a broken, fallen wreck. This city represents the nation that God brought out of Egypt with his outstretched arm. This is the nation he revealed himself to, who saw the pillar of cloud and fire. Who watched Egypt drowned in the sea. This is the people God covenanted with out of all the nations in the world. This is the people, God chose for his own possession to be holy and separate. This is the people he gave abundant wealth to when they crossed the red sea and who he gave a land flowing with milk and honey to, when they crossed the Jordan.

Yet, they have turned their backs on him and run after idols - objects of silver and gold that have no life – neither can they give life. They have preferred to be like the nations around them, taking for themselves a human king, when God would have been their king. Their hearts have run after fleeting pleasures and rejected the fountain of living water in their midst.

No wonder then that God is angry.

It is a slur upon the truth of his worth when people chose fleeting pleasures over him. It is no small offence to prefer other things over him. He’s infinitely worthy of our preference over and against everything else. And so, he’s infinitely offended when we prefer over him. That serves to raise the significance of sin. There’s no such thing as a small sin or an insignificant sin. We just think there is because we’re so used to committing them. Not an hour goes by and we do not sin. But our consciences are dull. The truth is we are unmoved by most of our sin.

We have categories in our minds and hearts for sin. Sins of thought and deed and speech and attitude which do register; which do move us. But most sin falls under that radar.

Yet not a single love over and against God is not infinitely offensive to him. Nor is he an unholy God who is happy to let things slip.

Sometimes I get cross with my children. They behave in ways that are not honouring to me as their father. All children do that. But when I look at their sins against me, I remember that I’m a sinner too. Therefore, I can forgive them without amends. I expect repentance, but not restitution. But I’m not holy. I’m not worthy of perfect obedience from my children. But God is not like us – not like me. He is holy; he cannot forgive without restitution being made. Otherwise his character would be ruined. His holiness undermined. His glory faded.

So, know this. Against every sin – whether small or large in our estimation, it does not matter – God’s anger is gathered up. Sin has to be punished. The Lord is wrath against sin (v.9). When we sin as believers, the devil is very quickly on the scene because he loves to devour our faith.

His tone is a gloating tone. ‘Do not let the God you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘you will never be given into the hands of Satan’. You are guilty, you have joined me in my rebellion. I am your ally.

And then he says things like: I will give you 2000 horses if you can put riders on them (Is 36:8)’.

That’s one way he speaks. Another way is like this, ‘You see, you are not what you said you were. You’re a fake. You’re a liar and deceiver just like me. You said you loved this God of yours, but in a moment, you’ve turned your back on him’. So, he accuses us and entices us to throw our lot in with him.

Micah though, has a Godly way of navigating this situation, but first we need to ask if God’s anger against us when we sin is real. The answer is yes - real enough to feel the weight of. God has two types of wrath.

Wrath that is punitive; that is to say, justice-satisfying. And wrath that is corrective and disciplining. 1 Corinthians 11:32 is helpful in giving us a biblical appreciation of this truth: ‘Nevertheless, when we are judged (not a word we like to hear, but important in this context) in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world’.

So, it’s not only biblical but essential that we have a classification in our minds for a type of anger that God has as a Father over his children, that is specifically purposed to bring about holiness in them.

Now notice Micah’s resistance to the enemy. The first step is acknowledging sin as sin and acknowledging that damage has been done to the relationship, by me. I’ve done the damage. I sit in darkness. The Lord is the light of Jerusalem (v.8). Yet Jerusalem sits in darkness. Their relationship is broken. The light of the glory of God is not found in that place. Right now, at least.

The next thing Micah does is introduce a confident statement against the enemy. ‘Do not gloat over me – you fiend. You can accuse me, and tell me that all is lost. But…

And now 3 ‘I will’ statements. The first based on a promise of God, the second on a personal resolution and the third on the credentials of Jesus.

V.8 – I will rise. The psalmist said in the past, ‘He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand’.

‘Do not gloat over me Satan, I have sinned, I am in the slimy pit, but my God will rescue me. He will set my feet on a rock’. I have a sure and certain hope that I will rise. Not by my lifting myself up, but because my God will lift me up.

V.9 – I will bear the Lord’s wrath.

‘I will do my part faithfully.

I will sit under the indignation of the Lord patiently.

I will endure this darkness for a season for it is my doing.

I will endure it until he works on my behalf.’

In this season of patient endurance, we feel the weight of the sin we’ve committed. We feel the consequence of the sin we’ve committed. We bear the separation. We bear the condemnation.

We bear the downcasting of our souls. 1 Peter 5:6 puts it like this: ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time’. It’s Micah’s word and Peter’s word.

Humble endurance is a vital step.

V.9 – I will see his righteousness.

‘It is my eager hope and expectation that out of my darkness I will see His light. It is my confidence that he will supply me with righteousness that will cover my heinous sin’.

What is the basis of that hope? It is this: ‘he pleads my case’. That’s advocate language. I have committed an undeniable sin. The judge is angry with me. He rightly is demanding justice. And, now I have a lawyer in the court room. My lawyer is saying I’m innocent. And the judge is agreeing. How can this be? The apostle John tells us, ‘if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin’. How will I see God’s righteousness when I have sinned? My advocate is righteous and he will vouch for me. He is my atoning sacrifice – he will cover my sins. With him, my God is well-pleased. That’s what ‘coming out into the light’ looks like.

So, we must be balanced. As we continue in our Christian walk, our sensitivity to sin needs to increase not decrease. As our appreciation of God’s character and holiness increases, so our appreciation of the weight and ugliness of sin must increase. And then, we must do a Micah style knife edge walk between crushed and Christ.

Crushing must happen, but assuredly Christ, must be where we finish up.

Wilful sinning is a dangerous thing. The person who says, I’ll carry on sinning because grace abounds, very likely becomes hardened to sin. For Judas, we’re told that he was accustomed to steeling from the offering for the poor. His heart had become insensitive to the offence caused to God by his love of money. He had learnt to prefer money over his God. Then when he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver, he couldn’t believe that God would forgive him. Though he would have done, no place for repentance could be found. So, it’s healthy to feel the weight of sin; to fear God belittling preferences. It’s also essential to hold fast to the promises of God in Jesus. We will not seek forgiveness unless we have confidence in our advocate. So, not so confident that sin has no bite. And not so crushed by sin’s weight that we have no confidence in Jesus. That’s Micah’s word to us.

I want to close with a personal story. An illustration of the effectiveness of Micah’s careful confidence in my own life. Last year I was working on a job in London and this one visit, I was early for my appointment. I went around the corner to look at a local building site. I was stood looking at the crane when a woman passed me. She said, ‘you’re very interested in that building’. I told her I was an architect and as my wife tells me, I’m prone to distraction when it comes to buildings'.

We exchanged some background about our professional lives. Then she started talking about Jesus, about his moral goodness and his example. She said she was Catholic. I talked with her about that for a bit.

What had just opened up was a golden opportunity to speak of my own faith in Jesus – not as moral teacher but as my personal saviour, Lord and treasure. But I bottled it. I’ve spoken many times to many people about Jesus in that way, I’m well practiced. But fear got the better of me on this occasion. In a moment, my heart calculated and loved my own reputation in the face of this woman more than Jesus.

Eventually I was late for my meeting; I had to run. I left nothing of the gospel with that woman.

But my reputation was intact. I was broken in my meeting. I felt like my relationship with the Lord was broken. I was sitting in darkness. I could have cried. After the meeting, I did. I got on the tube and went back to my car feeling the terrible indignation of the Lord against me because of my sin. I felt crushed. I cried out to the Lord Jesus to plead my case. I said I was sorry for preferring my own reputation over his. I told him I trusted that his blood shed on the cross, had atoned for my sin. I pleaded for the woman. And I felt crushed.

The Lord put it in my heart to confess my sin to a brother, not because he’s more righteous than me and can cover my sins. But because he can plead with God for me and maybe he can encourage me to bear the Lord’s judgement until the Lord brings me out into his light. My friend was very firm, he never played down my sin. That was good. And he encouraged me with promises from God’s word that helped me to endure until I saw the pleasure of God in the Lord Jesus’ righteousness shining again. Until I could say, ‘do not gloat over me Satan, I have been raised out of the pit of my sin and my advocate has set my feet on a rock’.

May the Lord bless this word to us.



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